The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the basal activity of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system or the basal levels of the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) are related to distinct patterns of left ventricular (LV) geometry in patients with essential hypertension. The left ventricle of patients with arterial hypertension may be exposed to a variety of growth-regulating mechanisms, including pressure overload and humoral activation. The interaction of such growth stimuli may be involved in the modulation of LV geometry. LV geometry was determined echocardiographically in 104 patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension. The same number of age- and sex-matched normotensive subjects served as controls. Plasma renin activity (PRA) and serum concentrations of aldosterone and ANP were measured by radioimmunoassay. Correlation analyses revealed that PRA was significantly associated with septal wall thickness and LV mass index (r = 0.25; p < 0.005 each). In addition, as compared with normal subjects (1.0 +/- 0.7 ng/ml/hr), PRA was significantly increased in patients with concentric LV hypertrophy (LVH) (3.4 +/- 6.6 ng/ml/hr, p < 0.01). Aldosterone displayed a close correlation with septal, posterior, and relative wall thickness (r > 0.27, p < 0.005 each). Compared with normal subjects (74 +/- 27 pg/ml), patients with hypertension and pathologic patterns of LV geometry were characterized by elevations of aldosterone (LV remodeling 203 +/- 93 pg/ml, concentric LVH 123 +/- 67 pg/ml; eccentric LVH 199 +/- 89 pg/ml; p < 0.05 each). ANP was significantly associated with septal wall thickness, left ventricular dimension, and LV mass index (r > 0.22, p < 0.005 each). Furthermore, compared with normal subjects (50 +/- 17 pg/ml), ANP values were significantly increased in patients with hypertension and concentric LVH (80 +/- 44 pg/ml, p < 0.005) and eccentric LVH (88 +/- 24 pg/ml, p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis adjusting for systolic blood pressure, body mass index, and age revealed that renin and ANP were independently associated with LV mass index (p < 0.05 each). Interestingly, adjusted PRA levels were not related to any specific pattern of LV geometry. In contrast, adjusted ANP levels were associated with concentric and eccentric LVH, whereas adjusted aldosterone levels were significantly elevated in subjects with LV remodeling and eccentric LVH (p < 0.005). Thus elevated levels of renin and ANP may be found in patients with hypertension and elevated LV mass index. In addition, ANP and aldosterone are related to specific geometric patterns of the left ventricle. The data may further stimulate the discussion on the mechanisms that account for alterations of LV geometry in hypertension.